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Anti-tolls protest unites Spanish and Portuguese


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Hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese motorists gathered on April 9 at the border near the Guadiana Bridge for a ‘Go Slow’ against the decision of the Portuguese Government to install tolls on the A22 – Via do Infante (see Algarve Resident April 8 edition).

The protest, coordinated by members of the Portagens na A22 NÃO (No Tolls on the A22) group in conjunction with the Comissão de Utentes da A22 (A22 Users Commission), united the Portuguese and Spanish drivers who are against the introduction of tolls and claim that this measure will drastically reduce business commerce relations and free movement to and from the two countries.

The protest on the A22 created a line of cars about three kilometres long and organisers intended to block the Guadiana Bridge. But that did not happen due to police intervention.

However, the Portuguese and the Spanish protesters honked their car horns and shouted words of protest against a measure that will affect residents on both sides of the border.

Portuguese and Spanish came together last Saturday to protest against tolls on the A22
Portuguese and Spanish came together last Saturday to protest against tolls on the A22

One of the founding members of the A22 users’ commission, João Vasconcelos, told the Algarve Resident: “Our Spanish neighbours are also unhappy about the implementation of tolls on the A22. We will continue to fight because the next Government will probably go ahead with the tolls on a road that is the only way of the Spanish and Portuguese to keep business relations.”

Spanish Ayamonte Mayor António Rodriguez told Lusa news agency: “The introduction of tolls on the Via do Infante is a setback of 30 years when there was a bridge between Portugal and Spain.

“The opening of the Guadiana Bridge in 1991 has greatly facilitated the mobility between the two countries and now the Portuguese Government will ruin relations between these countries if tolls are introduced. The economic exchange and wealth creation between the countries with the introduction of tolls will have serious consequences for the Algarve and for the entire province of Huelva and Ayamonte.”

The Government plan to implement the controversial measure has had to be put on hold following the dissolution of  the government at the end of last month, and will only be decided after June 5, the date of the General Election.

Meanwhile, members of the PS and PSD political parties have stated that tolls on A22 will go forward if they come to power in the next election.

Both party leaders, José Sócrates (PS), Portugal’s former Prime Minister who introduced  the tolls measure, and Pedro Passos Coelho (PSD), revealed last week that it will be part of the programme that the European Commission (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) will negotiate with the Portuguese government to help the country economically.

Meanwhile, many drivers have already bought the electronic payment devices for tolls.

A spokesman from CTT, which are one of the outlets selling the devices, told the Algarve Resident this week: “Road users who have already bought the device will have to wait until the new government decides on a date for the implementation of tolls. At present, it is not possible to return the devices.”

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]